H.B. 3623 (Darby) – Transportation:  would provide, among other things, that:  (1) the Texas Transportation Commission by rule shall establish a process to certify environmental specialists, public involvement specialists, engineers, and attorneys to work on all documents related to state and federal environmental review processes; (2) the certification process must require continuing education for recertification and be available to Texas Department of Transportation employees, private contractors, and local government employees who routinely work with the department relating to state or federal environmental review processes; (3) the commission by rule shall set standards for processing an environmental review document for a transportation project; (4) each person who prepares or submits a document for review by the department (an engineer, consultant, or attorney) must hold a valid certificate issued by the department; (5) before the department may process an environmental   review document a detailed scope of the project must be prepared; (6) if a city prepares an environmental review document for a project, the department shall make a  determination whether the documents are administratively complete and ready for technical review not later than the 20th day after receiving them; and (7) a city may submit an environmental review document for a transportation project only if: (a) the transportation project is contained in the approved state transportation improvement program; or (b)  the transportation project is contained in the unified transportation program, another statewide transportation plan, the applicable metropolitan transportation plan, or an applicable rural transportation plan.

H.B. 3823 (Thompson) – Emergency Operators:  would: (1) require an employer of emergency operators, including a city, to provide 24 hours of crisis communications training approved by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education before the first anniversary of the operators first day of employment; and (2) allow the commission to adopt rules regarding employment, training, education and competence of emergency operators.

S.B. 1602 (Seliger) – Sales Tax:  would require a person to apply for and obtain an exemption number from the comptroller in order to qualify for a sales tax exemption for certain agricultural items.  (Companion bill is H.B. 268 by Hilderbran.)

S.B. 1850 (Van de Putte) – Cruelty to Animals:  would:  (1) authorize a city animal control officer who has reason to believe an animal is being cruelly treated to seize the animal in place by allowing the animal to remain with the owner in lieu of impoundment, but prohibiting the owner from moving or disposing of the animal;  (2) give the owner of an animal the right to request a jury trial, in lieu of a hearing, in a justice or municipal court to determine whether the animal has been cruelly treated; (3) provide that an owner divested of ownership of an animal for cruelly treating the animal may perfect an appeal by paying an appeal bond in an amount determined to be the approximate actual cost anticipated for housing and caring for the impounded pet; (4) require the court hearing the appeal described in (3), above, to consider the matter de novo not later than the tenth calendar day after the date of notice of appeal and payment of bond; (5) provide that in relation to the appeal described in (3), above, the owner of the animal does not have to file a motion for a new trial to perfect the appeal; and (6) authorize a county court of a court of law to hear an appeal described in (3), above, notwithstanding any other law.

S.B. 1884 (Wentworth) – Specialty and Personalized License Plates:  would: (1)  make various changes to the law regarding the marketing, hosting, and sale of specialty and personalized license plates; (2) authorize a city that receives money related to the issuance of professional sports team license plates to contract with a private vendor to distribute the city’s portion of the money in a manner other than to the credit of a venue project fund, to retire public debt incurred in the construction or acquisition of professional sport team facility, or to maintain or improve such a facility; (3) authorize the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles to contract with a private vendor for the vendor to host all or some of the specialty license plates on the vendor’s website, process the purchase of specialty license plates hosted on the vendor’s website and pay additional transaction costs, and share in the personalization fee for the license plates hosted on the vendor’s website; and (4) provide that the state’s portion of the personalization fee may not be less than $40 for each year issued.

S.J.R. 4 (Hinojosa) – Texas Water Development Board Bonds:  would authorize the Texas Water Development Board to issue general obligation bonds for one or more accounts of the Texas Water Development Fund II, with certain restrictions.

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